"CNN’s statements while repugnant, were not, as a matter of law, defamatory." So concluded Magistrate Judge Raag Singhal's ruling in Donald Trump's defamation lawsuit against CNN for its coverage of the 2020 election. "The case will, therefore, be dismissed with prejudice."
Trump had accused the network of defamation for comparing him to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Key among the evidence presented was the phrase "the big lie," originally attributed to Hitler, which CNN repeatedly used to refer to the former president's remarks about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential elections.
After analyzing the examples presented by the former president's lawyers, Judge Singhal held that CNN's statements should be considered opinions, not verifiable facts. And, therefore, "not actionable."
He also dedicated a few lines to criticize the current media system:
The reasonable viewer ... no longer takes the time to research and verify reporting that often is not, in fact, news. As an example, only one month ago, the United States Supreme Court issued a well written 237-page joint opinion with vastly divergent views in two cases known widely as the Affirmative Action decisions.
Within minutes of the release of the opinion, the free press had reported just what the opinion supposedly said and meant although it was clearly impossible that the reporter had read the opinion. And of course, those initial news articles were repeatedly shared, commented upon and disseminated over social media and still to this day the reasonable viewer very likely hasn’t read the opinion and never will. This is the news model of today.
While the judge did not deny or claim to distinguish the "political motivation" of undermining Trump, he did explain that the legal team of the GOP nominee needed to prove that CNN intended to inflict harm on the former president using information they knew to be false or that they had not bothered to check, something typified as "malice."
"The Court finds Nazi references in the political discourse (made by whichever “side”) to be odious and repugnant," Singhal opined, "but bad rhetoric is not defamation when it does not include false statements of fact."
In that sense, no reasonable member of the audience could or should infer that the Republican "advocates the persecution and genocide of Jews or any other group of people." And even if it could be interpreted in such a way:
Being “Hitler-like” is not a verifiable statement of fact that would support a defamation claim.